Pewterers' marks fall into five broad categories: touch
marks, hallmarks, quality marks, labels and catalogue
numbers. Below is an example of the marks of a pewterer who
used three of these types of marks (touch mark, hallmark, and a
label or place mark). Note that Nathaniel Austin's working
period was from 1763 to 1800 and that he used both a
pre-Revolutionary, "Lion-in-Gataeway", touchmark and a
post-Revolutionary, "Eagle", touchmark.
For American pewter, the best guide to photographs of
pewterers' marks is Ledlie Laughlin's three volumn, Pewter in America, Its Makers and
Their Marks. However the last volumn was
published in 1971. Discoveries since 1971 have been
published in the PCCA Bulletin, published twice a
year. Other sources for drawings of most of the American
pewter marks are listed in the bibliography.
A touch mark is a pewterer's "trade mark" and in American
pewter almost always includes the name or initials of the
pewterer. Unlike in London and Edinburgh where guilds
regulated the trade, there were no American touch plates where the
touch marks of pewterers were recorded. Touch marks vary in both
size and style but there are some regional characteristics.
And as shown in the touch marks of Nathaniel Austin above, touch
marks used prior to the American Revolution tend to show English
influence, while those used afterwards often include the American
Eagle. After about 1825 the originality of the decorative
touches declined radically to simply the pewterer's name in a line
form, with some in a rectangular frame.
New York City, 1761 - 80
Thomas Danforth II
Middletown, CT, 1755 - 82
Philadelphia, PA, 1764 -
Thomas D. Boardman
Hartford, CT, 1805 - 70
Baltimore, MD, 1814 -
Leonard, Reed and Barton
Taunton, MA, 1835 -
Sometimes called pseudo-hallmarks because they resemble the
hallmarks found on silver, these marks often were used with the
larger touchmarks or in place of them. For the few 17th
century American pewterers that have been identified, hallmarks
are the only marks that have been found.
Boston, MA, 1674
1776 - 93
The crowned rose was used in England on pewter from the mid
16th century to denote quality. When used in this country it
was most often incorporated into the pewterer's touch mark along
with his name. The crowned "X" mark was also used by some
American pewterers to "imply" quality. None of these quality
marks had any regulatory standing or enforcement.
Middletown, CT, 1758 - 90
Philadelphia, PA, 1764 -
Labels and Cartouches
Some scroll-like labels called cartouches contain the
pewterer's name, however most labels found on American pewter are
place names, i.e., the name of the city where the pewterer
worked. A few marked their pewter with a "London" mark to
either deceive their customers or at least imply that their pewter
was up to London standards, considered the highest. Only
two, Samuel Hamlin, Sr. and Henry Will marked their pewter "Super
Fine Hardmetal" or Hardmetal", labels used extensively to
designate a quality alloy by London pewterers, many of whom
exported to America.
Johann Christopher Heyne
Lancaster, PA, 1756 - 80
Boston, MA, 1731 - 63
Albany, 1761 -
In the 19th and 20th century pewterers often produced catalogs
of their wares and put the catalog numbers on the articles
themselves. They are normally simple stamped numbers of
three, four or five digits, sometimes with a letter as well.
They are most common on wares made of Britannia metal.
Verification marks on American pewter are rare because American
made measures are rare with the exception of the 19th century
measures made by the Boardmans of Hartford, CT. American
verification marks, however, can be found on English export
baluster measures. These marks are simply letters,
indicating the state, commonwealth, or county in which they were
inspected, verified and used. These letters most often were
stamped on the lids of baluster measures or on the upper rim of
the body. Examples are: "A" (for Amsterdam) in New York
state, "CM" for Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and "CP" for
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Unlike in England where
verification marks can be found on pub or tavern mugs, such marks
are extremely rare on American mugs.
Owners often had their initials applied by the pewterer,
particularly on sadware. Often it will consist of two or
three initials in a straight line; occasionally they will appear
in a triad, the center, higher initial being the surname and the
other two the forenames of the husband and wife. Some 18th
century pewterers owned unique sets of crowned initial marks,
distinctive enough to serve as a means of identifying the
pewterer. Church pewter is often found engraved with the
name of the church.
Some merchants had marks that are as elaborate as
touchmarks. There is some evidence that these marks were
applied by the pewterer that made the piece. Examples of
these merchants are believed to be: Blakeslee Barns, H.N. Rust,
and Spencer Stafford, all at one time thought to be pewterers.
Illustrations of marks were taken from Collecting American
Pewter, by Katherine Ebert. The marks used
from Collecting American Pewter were originally drawn for
that book by Mr. Sheridan P. Barnard.